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Deaf-Blind Diver Defies The Toughest Odds

Deaf-Blind Heather diver defies the toughest odds.

Heather Lawson dived off Ricketts Point with VicDeaf volunteer Bill Hynes and aide Marie Hunter. Picture: Chris HopkinsHeather Lawson is possibly the first Deaf-Blind person in Australia to go scuba diving, and one of only a few in the world to have done so.

The 54-year-old Frankston adventurer, who was born Deaf and gradually lost her sight (as have two of her siblings), has skydived and bungee-jumped, climbed rocks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, flown in a hot air balloon and skied over snow and water.

Scuba diving has long been on her bucket list. Last week she spent an hour in the shallow waters of Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, thanks to a support team of seven including her Auslan tactile interpreters and local dive instructor Mike Letch, founder of the Disabled Divers Association.

Ms Lawson was tethered to a scuba hose, her tank floating separately so she could explore and sign freely. She held starfish, kelp and sea urchins as interpreter Bill Hynes also Deaf, and a qualified diver described everything to her in water up to three metres deep and 200 metres offshore.

Mr Letch said later that Ms Lawson's perception of her surroundings was incredible to witness.

"She was so much more in tune with a whole lot of stuff going on than the rest of us," he said. "She's super switched on, super intelligent. We want her to become a regular next year, now that we know how it can be done."

Back on shore, Ms Lawson - her grin as wide as the harbour bridge she climbed - declared the experience "amazing". "I wish I was a seal, then I could stay in the water all day," she said. "I was pretty nervous before going in, but it was incredible. I was so determined to breathe properly and ignore the waves. ...Read more:

Gallery: Deaf-blind Heather scuba-diving:
- Click here for our picture gallery of Heather's big dive
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